I didn’t get here on my own


Jordan Villanueva, a former senior pastor at Indian Hills Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, recently became professor of Christian studies in the School of Christian Studies at Howard Payne University. From the bottom of a Texan’s heart, he shares his experience and thoughts on church and ministry. To suggest a leader affiliated with the Texas Baptist General Convention for inclusion in this column, or to request to be introduced yourself, click here.


Where else have you served in the ministry, and what were your positions there?

I was first minister of youth at Primera Iglesia Bautista in Brownwood. I then served in youth ministry at First Baptist Church in El Paso and then as a youth pastor at Grace Temple Baptist Church in Oak Cliff.

Where did you grow up

I grew up in Azle, just outside Fort Worth, and attended Primera Iglesia Bautista in Azle. I spent a lot of time growing up on the north side of Fort Worth.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I grew up in and out of the church. I have heard the stories and I have heard the gospel. However, I knew God but I did not know him personally. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I came to a turning point in my life.

I had touched a valley because of the choices I had made. I realized in my mother’s driveway that I had put my hope in the wrong things. I haven’t had a typical ‘walk down the aisle’ moment. I realized, sitting smashed on the hood of my car as a teenager in my mom’s driveway, I needed to make Jesus the Lord of my life and follow him.

Where did you study and what diplomas did you receive?

I graduated from Howard Payne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Youth Ministry and Spanish. I received my Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am working on my doctorate. at Southwestern Seminary, with a focus on church history.

About the life of ministry

Why do you feel called to the ministry?

I received my call to ministry as a teenager in Campamento at Mount Lebanon Camp in Cedar Hill. My dear friend Tiny Dominguez was the speaker and called out to all those who felt that God was calling them to serve him in the ministry of vocations.

I had just finished high school and was about to start attending the HPU to play football, never thinking that I would study to be a pastor. Yet at camp that summer in 2008, I felt the Lord calling me to go forward and serve in this capacity.

I happened to be going to a Baptist university that fall with a Christian studies department. I believe the Lord made it happen.

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What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?

I really love investing in young people, whether it is to train someone who has just become a believer, or even to walk alongside younger pastors and ministers. I may not have as much wisdom and experience to impart as some who have been in the ministry for decades, but I want to give what I have to offer.

How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?

I started in the youth ministry. I served in student ministry for seven years. The honest truth was that I thought I would be in student ministry forever. The Lord had other plans. Yet even though my title and responsibilities have changed, the fundamentals have never changed. I continued to teach the truth and love people even in this new environment.

How do you think the ministry will change in the next 10 to 20 years?

I see a season of size coming. Not in the sense of people, but of programming. I believe the church has become metaphorical hoarders in the sense that we have created this huge institutional cruise ship that is extremely heavy and slow to turn because of everything that has been associated with the church.

I believe the pandemic has shown that this type of institution cannot function well in this rapidly changing world. The church must have the capacity to pivot in different ways in the future. I believe we’re going to start removing the lint in this stripping process, so we’ll get back to the basics of what it’s like to love God and love people.

About the Baptists

Why are you a Baptist?

I became a Baptist by condition and I remained a Baptist by conviction.

I came to know the Lord through the work of the Texas Baptist General Convention while growing up in a BGCT Hispanic church plant, attending events such as Congreso, and attending one of the BGCT universities. I was conditioned very early on to be a Baptist because that is how I became a disciple of Jesus. However, as I grew in age and wisdom, I came to believe that I am a Baptist from Texas.

I arrive at this conviction by theological means. First, I agree with the ecclesiological position of Baptists when it comes to who makes up the local church and how the local church is self-reliant while cooperating with others. I also hold to the theological position of the believer’s priesthood. I believe that Jesus is our great mediator, and through his mediation we all have direct access to the Father. Finally, I affirm the right to religious freedom for everyone.

What are the key issues facing Baptists at the denominational and / or congregational level?

The biggest problem I see is the lack of grace I see throwing up on social media between us. Jesus said, “By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” At this time, it does not appear that we are disciples of Jesus.

Unfortunately, we have started to draw lines in the sand again. If this continues, at some point there will be no one left in the circle with us. The early church was described in Acts as having all things in common. They certainly had their cultural, social and linguistic differences. Yet Jesus was the common thread.

Jesus brings unity. Before saying “I don’t agree”, you must first say “I understand”. Then, if we still don’t agree, we do it with love and still have the ability to cooperate with each other for the sake of the gospel.

What would you change about the Baptist denomination – state, national, or local?

I would love to be part of the generation that brings together the two Texas State Conventions. I was obviously not there when the split happened, but I heard the stories. I saw the scars.

The truth is, this fight was not my fight. I believe there have been a lot of hurt feelings during this tumultuous time. But hopefully we have realized that we agree much more than we disagree on doctrine and pragmatism.

About Jordan

Who were / are your mentors, and how have they influenced you?

There are three men the Lord used to make me who I am today. The first individual influenced me from afar. Jon Randles was so influential in my early years as a disciple of Christ and in my preparation for ministry. I had the opportunity to learn from Jon remotely by listening to him at Congreso, covers at Howard Payne University and for undergraduate seminars at HPU. He helped me instill the mentality I have today that I am not called to be someone other than who the Lord has made me, and I must do it boldly.

My dear friend Tiny Dominguez was a frequent speaker at Congreso and Campamento while growing up. In addition, thanks to mutual friends, I had the opportunity to learn from him up close. He was the preacher that delivered the call in which I received my call to the ministry.

Tiny was instrumental in showing me what it’s like to be a Hispanic preacher. He also modeled what humility looks like in a preacher. No matter the size of his rig, he always had time to talk to a child of Azle. I am grateful to this day that I still receive phone calls from Tiny, who is watching me and telling me that he is praying for me. Also, I would like to think that Tiny’s humor influenced me a lot in my own preaching, although I would like to think that I am funnier.

The Lord used my stepfather, Dr. David Lowrie Jr. to show me what it feels like to be a good pastor of a church while being a wonderful husband and father. David gave me the chance to intern at his church, First Baptist Church in El Paso, after I graduated from HPU. During my internship, I always looked forward to my weekly time with him as we walked through the word of God together. David was one of the first preachers who really made the word of God come to life for me. I developed a hunger for the word of God which I still have today because of his preaching.

I am also grateful for the opportunity given to me to see him away from the church. It’s the same person at home as at church. Obviously, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be married to his sweet daughter Jamie. He always tells people that if we had known I was going to marry his daughter he would have asked more difficult questions when I interviewed for the internship. I am fortunate to be able to call the David family.

What did you learn in the job that you would like to learn in seminary?

I wish I had taken the Pandemic 101 course.

Outside of the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors and explain why.

I recommend Augustine City of God to anyone grappling with the current state of our culture and our nation, no matter how colossal work it is.

I also greatly appreciate the scholastic works of Thomas Aquinas. One of my favorites is hers Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics.

The last old author I recommend is Jonathan Edwards. I am grateful to Dr. Caldwell of Southwestern Seminary for nurturing in me a love for arguably the greatest theological spirit in our country. I recommend starting with Edward’s writings on free will.

One recent job that has blessed me immensely in light of the pandemic and recent cultural changes is that of Tod Bolsinger Canoeing in the mountains. It is one of those leadership books that will go down in history as an all time classic when it comes to navigating the landmines of leadership in a Christian context.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

My verse of life has always been Ephesians 3: 20-21. “Now to him who is able to do much more abundantly than anything we ask or think, according to the power at work in us, be to him the glory in the church and in Jesus Christ through all. generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

I have a pretty vivid imagination, and yet the Lord always amazes me with his grace and the ways in which he blesses me every day. I never thought the Lord would bring me to where I am today. We’ve all heard of that old cowboy saying, “You know what happens if you see a turtle on a fence post. You know he didn’t do it on his own.

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